Almost all of Asia is in the northern hemisphere except
for a number of Indonesian islands. The continent's largest
distance east-west is approximately 9700 kilometers, and
greatest distance north-south is approximately 8600
kilometers. Asia is surrounded by oceans except to the
northwest. The northernmost point of the Asian mainland is
Cape Chelyjuskin in Siberia, the westernmost Cape Baba in
Asia Minor, the southernmost Tanjong Bulus on the Malaya
Peninsula and the easternmost Cape Desjnov in northeastern
Siberia. Off the coast are several of the world's largest
islands and numerous smaller islands primarily east and
southeast. Asia has a total coastal length of approximately
Most of Asia consists of the Eurasian plate with several
bedrock shields surrounded by younger mountain chains.
During the tertiary period, India collided with the rest of
Asia and formed the Himalayas, with several of the world's
highest mountains, and the Tibetan high plains. Arabia,
which was part of the African plate, collided with the
southwestern part of Asia during the alpine mountain range,
but is separated from Africa by the Red Sea, which is part
of the African rift system. Plate movement continues,
causing volcanic eruptions and earthquakes where Asia
collides with and partially glides over the Pacific plate in
Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan.
Most of Asia is a mountainous country with large high
plains in Western and Central Asia and a wide expansive
alpine fold zone with Pamir central. The high plains are
formed by degradation products from the mountains; the
largest is the Tibet high plain with an average height of
over 4000 meters above sea level. Further south lies the
world's highest Himalayan mountain system with a range of
peaks over 8000 meters above sea level.
In Arabia, the northern part of the Indian peninsula,
Southeast Asia and China, there are large fertile and
densely populated lowland areas, not least around the large
rivers. Several areas are below sea level, such as the
Turfan sinking in western China (154 meters below sea
level), the Caspian sea (28 meters below sea level) and the
Dead Sea (427 meters below sea level).
There are several large lakes, including the Caspian Sea,
which is Earth's largest lake, Lake Aral, Bajkal, which is
Earth's deepest lake, and Balkhash. Saline water lakes,
which are without drains, include the Caspian Sea (with
fresh water in northern areas), the Aral Sea, the Balkh Sea,
the Dead Sea in Palestine and the Vans Sea in Turkey.
In Asia, several large rivers flow. The fold zone from
Turkey to the far northeast of Asia forms a divide between
rivers flowing to the north (counting from west to east
including Dvina, Ob, Jenisej and Lena) and rivers flowing to
the south and east (including Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra,
Irrawaddy, Mékông, Huang He, Chang Jiang (Yangtzekiang) and
Amur). In the Middle East, Euphrates and Tigris flow
together and flow into the Gulf of Persia.
Asia's largest desert is the Gobi Desert of 1,294,000
square kilometers in China and Mongolia. Another great
desert is the world's second largest sand desert, Taklamakan,
in northwest China; it is often considered an offshoot of
the Gobi Desert.
A number of large peninsulas protrude into the sea.
Counted from west to east, these include the Arabian
Peninsula, India, the Malacca Peninsula, the Korean
Peninsula, Kamchatka Peninsula, the Chuktsher Peninsula and
the northern coast of Tajmyr Peninsula and Jamal Peninsula.
Large islands and archipelagos outside the Asian
continent include, from the west to the east, Sri Lanka,
Maldives, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hainan, Taiwan, Japan,
Sakhalin and off the continent's northern coast of New
Zealand and Novaja Zemlja.
The four major world religions originated in Asia. They
are Christianity (Israel, Palestine), Islam (Arabian
Peninsula or Middle East region defined by
Countryaah), Buddhism and Hinduism (India). Local religions
include shamanism in the north, and belief systems with
national features and ancestral worship. Asia has been the
mark of Christian mission for centuries, but especially
since the 1960s, Buddhist and Hindu neo-religious movements
have prevailed in the West.
A large number of languages are spoken in Asia. The
most important language families are: the Indo-European
(including Armenian, Indo- Iranian, Iranian and Russian),
Afro-Asiatic (including Arabic and Hebrew), Dravidian
(India), Sinotibetan (in China, Tibet, Southeast Asia), the
Indonesian branch of the Austronesian (in Malaysia,
Indonesia and from Taiwan southeast to the Philippines), the
Turkish (including Turkish, Turkmen and Uzbek), the
Tongan (including Manchu), the Mongol (řstmongolske and
vestmongolske language in the northern parts of Asia), the
Uralic (in northwestern Siberia) and the paleoasiatiske (in
In addition come isolated unit languages, without secure
association with the above, such as Aino, Japanese,
Burushaski, Chinese and Korean. In the Caucasus, 44
languages belonging to several language families are
spoken without relative in a relatively small geographical
English is the official language of India, the
Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore, and Portuguese is an
official language of Macao in China and East Timor.